Why Kushner Held A Private Meeting with Billionaires and the Qatari PM

Axios had a fantastic scoop this morning. Barak Ravid, the Israeli journalist whom CNNhas also just (smartly) hired as an on-air analyst, reported that last Wednesday Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump held a private lunch meeting at Coco’s, a member’s-only club restaurant in the General Motors Building in New York. At this meeting, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani addressed a group of plutocrats, many of whom were Jewish.

According to the report, Al Thani walked through the background behind Qatar’s close relationship with Hamas over the years, saying that the relationship was, in fact, supported by the US who’d wanted an open channel to Gaza. He added that the billions sent to Gaza in the last five years were coordinated with Israel.

I phoned some of my well-placed Middle East sources to ask what was really going on here seeing as the Qataris and Jared Kushner have a relationship that is – to put it mildly – controversial.

Read on at Vicky Ward Investigates 

The Kushner Family, Alan Dershowitz, and Trump White House Pardons

So, in Sunday’s New York Times there was a very long, detailed article about a seemingly very strange Trump White House pardon to a young man, Jonathan Braun, who had ties to the Kushner family. According to The Times, Braun was serving a 10-year sentence for trafficking marijuana and cooperating with a federal investigation, when the pardon came down the pike. As a result the government lost a key witness and a major investigation into predatory lending was stalled. Reportedly, Jared Kushner had been heavily involved in lobbying for Braun’s pardon. Kushner declined to comment.

The article reported how Braun had been in the same class as Nicole Kushner, Jared’s younger sister, at Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, NJ. One of the school’s main benefactors is Kushner’s father, Charles, who hung up the phone when contacted by The New York Times.

The article also reported the involvement of lawyer Alan Dershowitz. I remembered Dershowitz’s involvement — and direct line to Kushner advisor Avi Berkowitz — in another Trump White House pardon (commutation, to be precise), that of kosher meat kingpin, Sholom Rubashkin. (I broke this story for CNN in 2019. The story is linked below.)

This spurred me to phone Dershowitz.

Read on at Vicky Ward Investigates 

“She’s Got the Biggest Set of Balls In The Room”

There’s fever-pitch speculation over what Ivanka Trump will say about the Trump Organization. Her father and her brothers are accused, civilly, of fraud. Scheduled to testify tomorrow, she’s there as a fact-witness. She was dismissed from the case earlier this year, for timing reasons (she left the organization in 2017, so the New York State appeals court ruled that the Attorney General’s suit was filed too late after that date to be applicable to her).

In case the lawyers are not up to speed, below is an excerpt from Kushner, Inc that details exactly what Ivanka did while she was employed at the Trump Organization. Even I had forgotten the details of the deals she negotiated with shady foreign partners. (The kids were incentivized by their dad to bring in their own ventures.) Hard to believe she won’t be asked about some of these.

In fact, her work in the family business impressed her father so much that he believed she ought to be the one to ultimately lead it. His one time Organization senior advisor, Felix Sater told him: “She’s got the biggest set of balls in the room.”

Now, of course, there’s a question as to whether or not there will even be a meaningful business to hand off to any of his kids. Which has driven Trump completely nuts. To my eye, he seems to be far more overtly upset about this civil case than about the three criminal ones.

Possibly that’s partly because this case strikes at the heart of who, under all the bluster, he really is. In 2013 Ivanka told me that even though she was proud of how her father had morphed into a polymath businessman, (it was the era of The Apprentice) Trump himself was most proud of being “a builder.”

But, as you’ll read, he “built” less and less when his children entered the business. The company focused on licensing deals with foreign partners.

And as Ivanka heads to court, it’s perhaps worth remembering that at the Trump Organization, like most New York real estate businesses, very little, if anything, got written down. Which is, of course, convenient:

They did not write memos or budgets or project costs. In fact, they did not even keep files. The children would simply meet with a prospective partner and then stroll into their father’s office, tell him about the deal, and he’d make a decision. Whoever brought the project in would oversee it to completion (or, as would often be the case, to its demise).

Read on at Vicky Ward Investigates

Jared and Ivanka Go for Global…

Spurred by events both at home and abroad, the repositioning of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner is moving at a pace beyond what I’d imagined last week.

In New York, Judge Arthur Engoron has ruled that Ivanka Trump will, in fact, have to testify under oath against her father in the civil fraud suit filed by the New York Attorney General Letitia James. (Today, her brother Don Jr. is expected to start to give testimony).

Ivanka’s public response to the news, so far, has been to post smiling birthday photographs of herself in her new $24 million home wearing a short pink dress surrounded by her children, and husband.

She showed off the birthday flowers she’d received. Not just a few flowers. But a florist’s worth.

The messaging is effective.

Donald who? Real estate business what?

The pictures show that she’s her own person, with her own family and life. Her last name might be Trump, but for right now she self-identifies as all Kushner.

And – incidentally – that means very, very rich. Along with the sumptuous new home, the children are styled in matching clothes; there are catered dinner parties al fresco, and so on….

Lawyers I’ve spoken to are not surprised that her lawyers did not fight Judge Engoron’s decision. To fight the issue further might have signaled something that’s in direct contrast to all her Instagram posts, namely that she has something to hide.

What lawyers for the Attorney General almost certainly want to ask her when she testifies next week is who was involved in deciding the Trump Organization’s inflated valuations (from which, the judge has said, she has benefitted).

Bear in mind Trump’s answer to this has already been: “I didn’t get involved in it very much.”

So, you can already hear the lawyers asking: Who did, Ivanka? Who made those decisions?

Read on at Vicky Ward Investigates


The past few days I’ve been startled to see the revival of something that was seemingly lost during the years of the Trump presidency: the PR savviness of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

But it’s there in the headlines and images flooding the digital news. Saturday night, Ivanka showed up to Kim Kardashians’ 43rd Birthday dinner in Los Angeles, smiling and keeping stumm when paparazzi asked her about her lawyer’s efforts to keep her out of her father’s civil court case in New York.

Looking sensational in a sparkling white crop top and skirt-with-a-long-slit at an the women-only affair, it was a fascinatingly-timed reminder of not only how these past three years, she has separated herself from her father, his legal troubles and his political ambitions – but also of how mainstream social rejection is not something she or her husband want in the long term.

What was most striking to me about her presence at the Kardashian birthday – was that she clearly wanted to be there. And vice versa. Kardashian and co happily posed for the cameras, arms around each other. It was a VERY different sort of interaction from the very awkward efforts at small talk Ivanka conducted when she was at the 2019 G20 Osaka Summit with French President Emmanuel Macron, then British Prime Minister Theresa May, ECB head Christine Lagarde and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.

It was such moments that backfired so spectacularly on the couple when they were in government. Such exchanges were brazen reminders that not only was the couple not qualified to be in the Trump White House, but of the diplomatic havoc kleptocracy can wreak.

Read on at Vicky Ward Investigates

The Art of Trump and Pump and Dump

I hate to say it but I fear the fraud trial of Donald Trump may well work to his political advantage.

Yes, I know that’s the politically incorrect thing to say.

But, having reported extensively on the ruthless world of New York real estate for my 2014 book The Liar’s Ball, sorry, I think people may struggle to get worked up about a civil case where the only possible real victims are (theoretically) lenders who’d be stupid enough to believe Trump’s hyperbole about the valuations of his real estate.

I gave a talk a couple weeks ago for a panel at The Real Deal, the industry must-read. And I noticed that the room really came awake when I talked about Harry Macklowe, the charismatic rogue who is the protagonist of The Liar’s Ball. And, when discussing Charles Kushner.

When I talked about Trump in the context of his real estate, I felt a slight ennui in the room.

That’s because as a self-aggrandizing real estate developer who is long on hype and short on facts and possibly principle, he’s not especially atypical. (For example, Harry Macklowe, who is beloved in the industry rather infamously knocked down a couple of buildings in the middle of the night while, it emerged, the gas was left on. He continued on, pretty much uninterrupted). In fact, you could argue that the real reason President Trump was atypical as a President was precisely because he continued to operate as a run-of-the-mill New York developer in charge of his family office.

Trump’s fantastical math is egregious, yes, but in the wheeling and dealing of New York City real estate, it’s actually commonplace for buildings to “grow” in valuations — perhaps not by the magnitude of Trump’s penthouse (which according to Judge Engoron’s ruling was multiplied threefold) — and it’s also commonplace to lie (hence the annual party’s nickname for itself: The Liar’s Ball).

Read on at Vicky Ward Investigates

Today Is The Seventh Anniversary Of The Secret Trade That Put Trump In the White House

Seven years ago, on this date, a backroom trade occurred that would shift the future of the Presidency, the Republican party – and the Supreme Court, to where it all is today. Remarkably, very few people in the media paid much heed at the time.

Donald Trump, then the Republican nominee for President, who lacked the support of the financial and ideological center of his party, had been struggling in the polls against Hillary Clinton.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R. Tx) who’d come second in the Republican race, and who did have the support of the GOP establishment, had refused to endorse Trump at the Republican Convention.

Cruz’s chief worry, shared by the Federalist Society (Fed Soc), the conservative lawyers’ club he’d joined at Harvard Law School, was that Trump didn’t really care about the Supreme Court. The fear was that in Trump-fashion, were he elected President, he might nominate a bunch of cronies to the Court, who had not been groomed by the GOP establishment (aka Fed Soc). A guy atop Fed Soc called Leonard Leo and Sen. Cruz, were adamant that a list hand-picked by Leo was exclusively what Trump must select from. The greatest urgency was in the vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia. The Holy Grail for a new Conservative court would be something Cruz and Leo, both staunch Catholics, had long talked about: repealing Roe v. Wade.

Read on at Vicky Ward Investigates

Pipeline to Power: The Forty Year Plan to Capture The Supreme Court

Monday morning a friend texted me a story in the New York Times about Steve Calabresi, a renowned constitutional law professor and the co-founder and de-facto leader of the Federalist Society, the Conservative debate club that wields outsize influence and, which Donald Trump has publicly declared, hand-picked the three Supreme Court Judges nominated on his watch. Approximately 90 percent of the federal bench in the Trump era were either in or had been in Fed Soc.

According to the Times, Calabresi has now flip-flopped on the important question of whether or not the Constitution says Trump can be on the ballot for the 2024 election. Last month Calabresi said, in a blog post, Trump is ineligible. (The argument is, basically, that Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment bans officials who then cause insurrections).

But then the professor changed his mind, arguing essentially that the Constitution says there’s a difference between those elected to office and those appointed to office.

He’s not the first legal thinker to change his mind about to how interpret the Constitution. And he’s a bit mystified that the Times bothered to put his thoughts on the front page. “Must have been a very slow news day,” he told me on the phone with a chuckle.

But the Times is right to care what Calabresi thinks. He’s a man of much greater political influence than most people realize. He’s the intellectual backbone and curator of the Supreme Court.

Read on at Vicky Ward Investigates

Leon Black’s Epstein Nightmare Worsens

I’m slowly emerging from a break following wrapping up my forthcoming Audible Original podcast series which will drop on September 21st.

Standby for details!

Meanwhile: an acquaintance in the art world stopped me in the street and asked “Can you believe the news about Leon Black?”

I was actually confused in the moment as to which piece of news he was referring to. Because Leon Black, who is the multi-billionaire who hung out with Jeffrey Epstein and admitted to paying him $158 million for tax advice and who stepped down from running the private equity giant Apollo Global Management, and from chairing the board of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), has had back-to-back bad news recently.

First: On July 21st it emerged in the New York Times that back in January Black paid the U.S. Virgin Islands $62.5 million to avoid being civilly sued in Epstein-related charges. (Epstein was domiciled in the US Virgin Islands. Its Attorney General is suing JP Morgan for $190 million claiming they banked Epstein, while aware of his sex-trafficking operation. JP Morgan has denied this. The bank has paid $290 million earlier this year to settle similar claims from Epstein survivors).

I’ve learned that lawyers representing the USVI interviewed Epstein survivors before settling with Black. The Times reported that Brad Edwards, a lawyer representing many Epstein survivors, was present at the mediation talks but told the Times reporter he was not “at liberty to discuss the topic.”

Whit Clay, a spokesman for Mr. Black, told the Times: “Mr. Black engaged and made payments to Jeffrey Epstein for legitimate financial advisory services, which, based on everything now known, he very much regrets. Consistent with settlements of other major U.S. banks, Mr. Black resolved the U.S.V.I.’s potential claims arising out of the unintended consequences of those payments. There is no suggestion in the U.S.V.I. settlement that Mr. Black was aware of or participated in any misconduct.”

Second: On July 24th, Senator Ron Wyden, the Finance Committee chair, published a sixteen-page letter he’d sent to Black’s lawyers, revealing that the Committee has been investigating Black’s tax and estate planning for over a year.

Sen. Wyden says this is due to “inconsistencies” in an “independent” report filed by the law firm Dechert LLP, in which Black explained away the $158 million to Epstein, who was neither an accountant or a lawyer, as payment for tax advice.

Read on at Vicky Ward Investigates

There’s One Book You Must Read this Summer

Greetings all. I’m on my way back from a much-needed break after mostly wrapping up the Audible project I’ll be announcing shortly. In coming days I’ll be bringing you up to speed on all the reporting developments around the topics you know I love to cover. Epstein, Kushner, Trump and more.

First, however, I need to tell you about a book, out tomorrow, July 11th. No Ordinary Assignment by Jane Ferguson.

Jane is one of the rising stars in the elite tiny group of TV correspondents who report from dangerous far-flung war zones. She’s currently the Special Correspondent for PBS Newshour. She’s won an Emmy, the George Polk Award and a Peabody Award. She’s done incredibly difficult, dangerous reporting from deep inside Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, Beirut and more.

But what makes her memoir a standout, the best memoir I’ve read since Michelle Obama’s Becoming, is the writing that borders on the poetic. In a way her prose style reminds me of Harper Lee, a novelist who was no war reporter—but just as Lee could transport her readers into a sun-baked street in the South, where time slowed, fans fluttered, and sweat beads gathered, so, too Ferguson takes us deep into the smells, the sounds, the spirit of the people in the conflict zones she buries herself in.

Read on at Vicky Ward Investigates